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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Fish, Exercise Help Thwart Colon Cancer's Return?

Healthy habits important even when you're sick, researcher says
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Researchers have hypothesized that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish might somehow reduce colon cancer risk, Shaik said.

It also might be that people who eat more fish end up eating less red meat and processed foods, which other studies have linked to increased colon cancer risk, said Dr. Smitha Krishnamurthi, an ASCO spokeswoman and an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.

"In the United States, there are people who include fish as part of their diet intentionally to be healthier. It's not a standard part of our diet, like it is in other parts of the world," Krishnamurthi said.

Previous studies have established various benefits of exercise for colon cancer, Shaik and Krishnamurthi said.

"There's a growing body of epidemiologic evidence that exercise is associated with a reduced risk of recurrent colon cancer," Krishnamurthi said. "It makes sense. For example, we know that exercise reduces insulin levels in the body, and insulin is a growth factor for both normal cells and malignant cells."

Exercise also reduces inflammation in the body and helps thwart obesity, which are two other risk factors for colon cancer.

Weekly moderate exercise can include activities like a brisk walk or a bicycle ride. You can split up the needed hour of exercise, and do 20 minutes three times a week rather than do it all at once, Shaik said.

Krishnamurthi said she is not surprised that smoking or drinking did not seem to affect colon cancer risk. Previous studies have found no link between smoking and colon cancer, and only weak evidence linking colon cancer and alcohol.

However, she was surprised that no link was found between red meat consumption and colon cancer recurrence. She said she often warns her patients to avoid red meat and processed foods.

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